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Gheula Canarutto Nemni

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October 1943. When the Holocaust arrived to the Ghetto of Rome

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October 16th 1943

It was shabbat and the third day of sukkot.

The adults woke up in the middle of night at the noise of shotguns and shouts. The children ran into their parents bed. When everything became silent again, they finally  fell asleep.

In the courtyard of the synagogue the sukkah was waiting for the Jews of Rome to enter and pronounce a blessing.

The prayer shawls were bent the previous day and were waiting to be worn again.

The perfume of the cedar and of the myrtle wafted in the air of the dark synagogue.

It was October 16th, 1943

It was supposed to be another festival day.

Men, women and children were ready to wear their best outfits and walk in the ghetto streets wishing one to the other ‘shabbat shalom e chag sameach’.

The tables were still to be set with the little amount of food that you could buy  with the food ration cards.

A few days before that day, the Nazis had summoned up the chiefs of the Jewish community and threatened them to deport 200 Jews if they did not bring 50 kilos, 100 pounds, of pure gold, in thirty six hours.

The Jews of Rome showered in the office of the Jewish community and offered wedding rings, earrings received for the anniversary, necklaces belonged to the grandmother, until the amount of gold was reached. The gold was collected and brought to the SS col. Herbert Kappler. The Jews of the Ghetto thought this was the price they had to pay to survive the war.

But after a few days, the regular noises of via Portico d’Ottavia, via S. Ambrogio and via del Pianto, were interrupted by the strong noise of the trucks engines and motorbikes, of the soldier boots and of the barking dogs.

Orders shouted in German replaced the joyous festival songs, human beings were thrown into trucks as they were mere objects, mothers and fathers cried feeling on their own skin the imminent detachment from their children, babies were thrown into strangers arms with the hope to save them from deportation and death.

The square was full of people whose dreams, projects, thoughts, were so similar to those of their fellow citizens.

The Jews of Rome had woke up until the previous day, to go and work and earn their livelihood  as millions of other Italians.

But that day they have been reminded of their difference. They have been loaded on trucks and sealed trains which destination is written in giant characters: Auschwitz, a name they have never heard before. Their guilt is irreparable. They are the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

October 16th, 2018.

When you walk in the streets of the ghetto, if you turn down your eyes on the street, you can read the name, the date of birth and death, of the Italian Jews whose life was interrupted by a murderous hate.

In those same streets where trucks loaded Jews, you can see children coming out from the Jewish school and  walking with their kippah, their yarmulke, on their heads, while hundreds of tourists are eating in the kosher restaurants.

In the Tempio Centrale, the main synagogue, you can hear the same sounds that have been heard with almost no interruption for the last two thousand years.

Our brothers, who were deported and who never came back,

We will catch your prayers where they were interrupted,

We will open your prayer shawls that you have never opened again,

We will say the kiddush that you couldn’t recite anymore,

We will celebrate the festivals, pesach, Shavuot, that you could not share with your beloved and we will finish that sukkot that you were suddenly deprived from.

They have tried to annihilate our bodies in endless ways.

But our spirit, our soul, our attachment to G-d, are indestructible and above all.

Am Israel Chai.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

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Why Condé Nast and Vogue do not respect Jews

An open letter to Robert A. Sauerberg, president and CEO of Condé Nast.

On October 4, 2018, Vogue Arabia published a letter by Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager who is becoming an icon, despite the culture she represents.

My name is Raya Schijveschuurder. Today I would be 31 years old.

I would be probably married and I would have my own children.

They would be the same age of my little brothers who were 2 and 4 years old when they were killed together with my parents and me, inside a pizza store in Jerusalem, seventeen years ago.

We were a happy family until 2 pm of August 9th 2001. We were eight children, four girls and four boys, the perfect balance. My parents were still young, 43 and 41 years old.

But that day we were hungry.

And we wished for a pizza and some Coke.

And my parents decided to take us to Sbarro, one of the most famous pizza stores of Jerusalem.

I chose a pizza with mushroom and olives topping.

And my mother asked me: are you sure you will like it?

These were the last words I heard from her.

A few minutes Ahlam Tamimi brought Izzadin al Masri until the entrance of Sbarro.

Tamimi knew perfectly the store would be packed at that hour. She had been studying that place for a long time.

Al Masri had a guitar with him, but from that guitar no music note would have been played.

As he entered the store that guitar played a death music, throwing 20 pounds of nails, screws and explosives in men, women and children bodies.

We have just washed our hands as Jews use to do before eating the bread.

But I never ate that pizza.

I was blown up and killed by nails that pierced my heart, my liver, my vital organs.

In a few seconds my parents, my brothers, Shoshana Greenbaum, a pregnant woman, other ten people and me, were transformed in shreds of meat.

My grandparents were Dutch.

During the war they were deported from Holland to concentration camps.

They survived to all their families and tried to build a normal life in that same country that offered them death.

They pushed their children to go and live in Israel, the only place in the world where Jews would never be discriminated for their religion.

My parents tried to build a new life in that tiny country.

But Ahlam Tamimi decided that even there Jews do not have the right to live.

When they announced in the radio there had been a martyrdom attack at the Sbarro restaurant and that three people were killed, I admit I was a little bit disappointed because I had hoped for a larger toll’, she tells in an interview.

‘Have you ever thought about the families, the children, who were victims of this attack?’ Tamimi smiles ‘No’.

Ahed Tamimi, the seventeen years old teenager who became the symbol of ‘Palestinian resistance’ was brought up in these values. Ahlam Tamimi is her aunt. Her family was defined by international media as an ‘activist family’

Vogue Arabia, a magazine that belongs to Conde Nast group, has just published Ahed Tamimi letter.

In this letter Tamimi writes: I wanted to become a football player but I don’t play here because there is no time. Instead, I have been involved in demonstrations and confrontations with the Israeli army since I was a child.

 

I went on Conde Nast code of Ethics, where you can find the following words:

Reaching more than 270 million consumers across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, we are committed to delivering beautiful, influential content and brand experiences for individuals who demand to be inspired.

And I asked myself:

Does Conde Nast think Ahed Tamimi words should inspire  its readers?

Does Conde Nast agree that children, instead of becoming football players, should be raised in the dream to become martyrs one day?

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result. Whether it is stabbings or martyrdom operations or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

These are the words that Tamimi says on Facebook to her followers. 

We pride ourselves in respecting the individual no matter what gender, race, religion or orientation. We are committed to doing business in an ethical way, with honesty, integrity and humanity.

This is the message you can find on Conde Nast website.

Dear Conde Nast, mr. Robert A. Sauerberg,

you have proved to be committed to doing business.

But with this article that celebrates a teenager who was raised in death and martyrdom values, a girl whose aunt helped killing more than 15 human beings guilty of being Jews, you have not only lost many Jewish readers..

You have lost your commitment to integrity and humanity.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Please do not celebrate the Holocaust Remembrance Day

We cannot define ourselves as the people of remeberance.

We are not a nation that stops and cries  in front of historical artifacts kept in a display case.

We are not the nation of museums, people who catch each other saying ‘once upon a time’…

The concept of memory in and of itself does not belong to us.

Memories that allow you to get up as the same person as the previous day are not part of our DNA.

We don’t love commemorations and cliches, we don’t scatter ashes or keep mourning for longer than the law requires.

Our calendar has special dates to remember the destroyed sanctuary of Jerusalem. Our year has special days dedicated for when we cry over the lost golden period of our history.

At the beginning of that day, we sit down on the floor, we say sad prayers, we tell stories about destruction and death. But in the afternoon we get up, we dry our eyes and we ask G-d to build something new on our tears. We ask Him to transform all the past heaps of rubble into a foundation superior to the old one.

In Hebrew, a cemetery is called a ‘house of life’. It is a place where people who left this world rest in peace. But it is even a place of warning, of reflection, where those who are alive recall the real goal they were created for and their moral duty to use, in a positive way, every minute of life they were granted.

Jewish memory is never only a simple memory for its own sake.

Jewish memory is a path that takes one on a journey to a better self.

During Passover, when we tell the miracolous escape from Egypt, we eat matzah to remember how hastily Jews ran away from their enslavement. We dip bitter herbs to recall the bitter taste of being subjugated to somebody else. But at the end we celebrate freedom, our ability to keep our values, traditions and thoughts free from any external influence.

Celebration focuses on the past, it helps to treasure and transmit its stories and lessons. But celebration means to become stronger, more aware, thanks to those mistakes, to those succeses and  those pains, that belong to the past.

Memory helps us walk the paths of tomorrow in a better way.

There is no instant of our life that cannot become a springboard. Even the most painful events can become the first of the next steps.

As runners on a historical course, we study the past match so we can be better runners in the next game.

The word zecher, memory, shares the same root with rakaz, to concentrate.

We remember our life and we concentrate on the past days so we are able to live our future in a better way.

When we commemorate our dead, we don’t only stop in front of their pictures and cry. We gather people to study, we offer food and drink in their memory,  trying to give continuity to those things death has stopped.

So…

If today you are heading to a Holocaust memorial, if you are going to listen to a survivor’s personal story, if you are opening the pages of Anne Frank’s diary, if you are crying for our dead, please do all these things in our way.

Listen and learn, read and reflect, process a personal change.

In Jewish history past tense always runs with present.

Past is suspended until the next breath.

Memory is when children finish what their fathers left incomplete.

Memory is the next generation that brings life again where is there is destructiion and death.

Memory for Jews is transforming a sigh into a better future day.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

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